Police oral board interviews: How to answer personnel-related questions

Answers require some strategic thinking and must be viewed from the position you are testing for, not the position you are in


By Andy Borrello

Often in a promotional oral interview, panel members will explore the candidate’s knowledge and experience regarding how a ranking officer (sergeant, lieutenant and captain) might handle a personnel issue. Such questions often come in the form of a problem or conflict to be solved.

Answers require some strategic thinking and must be viewed from the position you are testing for, not the position you are in. This is known as the ability to assume the role. The inability to assume the role illustrates a candidate who may not ready to promote and does not quite understand the role and responsibilities of the position they are testing for. It is this inability, exemplified through one’s answers, that causes a notable number of candidates to struggle.

Interview sergeants and lieutenants and ask them anything and everything you are unsure of. (Photo/PoliceOne)
Interview sergeants and lieutenants and ask them anything and everything you are unsure of. (Photo/PoliceOne)

Promotional candidates might be asked a direct question or a scenario-based question about a subordinate’s actions, omissions, problems, conflicts, anger, behavior, or misconduct. These descriptors might be connected to poor tactics, questionable use of force, policy violations, ethical dilemmas, sexual harassment, tardiness, sick leave abuse, excessive use of profanity, or being lazy (unproductive). These are important and valid test questions as these personnel issues are regularly confronted by ranking staff.   

Such questions may require knowledge about policy, peace officer rights, counseling and progressive discipline, documentation and notifications through the chain of command. Some questions, often determined by the level of rank being tested for, may require an internal affairs investigation, administrative leave with pay, giving direct orders under threat of insubordination, coerced statements, or even arrest. Other questions may be procedural personnel issues such as handling an injured officer, dealing with a citizen’s complaint, or managing a health, wellness, or emotional scenario.

The first priority in your preparatory efforts to develop detailed, sequential and sweeping answers is simply to act. You must confront such situations professionally, thoroughly and always with the highest of standards.

In the rigid confines of a promotional interview, there are no half-measures, going easy, or kowtowing to be popular. Always help and support your officers, protect and serve them, but never in lieu of representing your organization.

Create a diverse list of possible questions that involve the aforementioned details. Ensure that you have a strong grasp, both technically and conceptually of how your organization does business when it comes to handling personnel issues.

Study policy, peace officer rights and learn how your internal affairs process works. Interview sergeants and lieutenants and ask them anything and everything you are unsure of. Take training courses, read articles, watch videos and listen to podcasts about risk management, peace officers rights, decision-making, ethics, or internal affairs. Don’t do this in a month. Your preparation should be a marathon, not a sprint.

Practice your answers out loud because that is how you will do it in your interview. Turn thought into talk and practice diligently while you see yourself improve over time and let your confidence grow.  Good luck!


About the author

Andy Borrello is a retired police captain, the author of the Police Promotion Super Course, and has coached and trained thousands of law enforcement professionals to develop their careers. 

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